These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
Iman Berry is inspired by her Islamic faith to energize others to care for the planet.
This 22-year-old Western University business and political science student from Windsor, Ont., co-founded Green Ummah to create an ecological movement for Canadian Muslims and to educate others about climate action.
Tell us about your project.
When I volunteered with the Canadian Muslim Vote initiative in the federal and municipal elections, we heard a lot of concern about climate change and the environment from Muslims. They wanted more information about how they can help, in part because our faith requires us to care for our planet. In 2020, I co-founded Green Ummah, which translates loosely as “Green Muslims coming together”, to help meet that need.
We worked with teachers and scientists to design a school-based curriculum that offers teachers both a faith-based and secular approach. Nature Canada provides funding for any class to take a field trip to a nearby natural area, where the children meet with a naturalist. The curriculum emphasizes Indigenous teachings and encourages leadership by having students design and implement a project to make a difference. In 2021, we reached about 100 kids. This spring, we will reach almost 500, in both public and Islamic schools.
Green Ummah was also active in the last municipal elections, educating social media audiences about the role municipalities can play in protecting the environment.
We run a competition awarding prizes for the best blogs that imagine a better future.
Iman Berry, a 22-year-old Western University business and political science student from Windsor, Ont., co-founded Green Ummah to create an ecological movement for Canadian Muslims. #YouthClimateAction
We have also given presentations in mosques.
How else have you been involved?
I participated in Nature Canada’s “Nature on the Hill” and met with members of Parliament to ask for rapid action on climate change. When I asked why support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion continues in the face of climate change and huge costs, one MP explained that many Canadians are not yet ready to live without fossil fuels. This made my work at Green Ummah seem even more relevant.
Tell us about your background.
My parents believe they have a faith-based obligation to make their voices heard when there is injustice and to give their time and energy to help others less fortunate. When they went to a rally or joined others to feed hungry people, they took me and my sister with them.
In high school, I volunteered in my member of Parliament’s office. MP Brian Masse showed me that politicians can make a big difference for ordinary people. I invited him to speak at our mosque and since then, politicians have been regular guests. This helps people know who to turn to when they have a problem and to put a face on decision-makers. Since I saw the movie The Day After Tomorrow, I have been alive to the reality of the need to protect our futures. Green Ummah is a way to help others see that, too.
What makes your work hard?
Decision-makers seem too willing to settle for half-measures to create the impression that they care. But the reality is that the entire business model must change if we are to keep our planet cool enough for a decent future. An oil company might green its production process but if it is still producing oil, it is contributing to catastrophe. As a business student, it is challenging to imagine how we can have a fashion industry if we intend to produce fewer clothes.
What gives you hope?
Everywhere I go, I see people of all ages involved and engaged. None of us is alone.
What do you see if we get this right?
When we have figured out how to live well within the Earth’s capacity, we will be so much better able to solve the other crises.
What would you like to say to other young people?
You might feel like your idea doesn’t matter but the truth is that it does. We need everyone. You will get more done if you join an organization that supports your talents.
What about older readers?
Climate change is affecting you right now where you live but it will affect my generation more than it will ever affect you. Your actions now matter to our future.